Many are warning a case heard Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court about putting a soft surface on a Missouri playground has broad implications for religious rights across America.
Missouri was giving out grants to help non-profits that have playgrounds put rubberized surfaces on them.
"That made the playgrounds safer," Faith and Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed told CBN News. "Children were less likely to be injured. If they fell down, they were less likely to skin a knee or break a bone."
But when a Columbia, Missouri, church applied for such a grant, it kicked off a major church-state fight.
Trinity Lutheran Church and its preschool certainly qualified for the grant under the criteria set by the state. But when state bureaucrats noticed Trinity Lutheran was a religious organization, it tossed out the church's application, saying separation of church and state means no state money can go for anything to do with religious groups.
That's the position taken by Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
"This preschool, with its playground attached, is an essential part of the ministry of this church and an essential part of its mission," Lynn said of Trinity Lutheran.
Former Missouri Solicitor General James Layton argued the case before the high court for Missouri.
"Almost 200 years ago, the people of the state of Missouri, adopting language that finds its origin in the founding fathers in Virginia and elsewhere, decided that we were not going to tax people in order to give money to churches," Layton stated at a news conference after the hearing.
A Case of Religious Discrimination?
But Trinity Lutheran and its lawyer argued protecting kids on a playground isn't going to promote religion and shouldn't be discriminated against.
"We aren't asking for special treatment," said Annette Kiehne, Trinity Lutheran Child Learnin Center director. "We are just asking not to be treated worse than everyone else. Whether you are a Jewish, Muslim, or Christian kid, or not religious at all, when you fall down on a playground, it hurts just as much at a religious preschool as it does at a non-religious school."
This article continues at [CBN] 'We're Becoming Second-Class Citizens': Huge Implications of Year's Biggest Religious Rights Case